Washington's Hidden Enemy Logs Suggest Pakistani Intelligence Controls Course of War

Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, appears frequently in the war logs obtained by WikiLeaks. They suggest that even as Pakistan served as an ally to the United States, it was still secretly helping the Taliban in its insurgency in Afghanistan. The documents also suggest a major role is played by former ISI chief Hamid Gul.
Former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul: a Taliban ally?

Former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul: a Taliban ally?

Foto: SHABBIR HUSSAIN IMAM/ AP

Editor's note: The following article is an excerpt from this week's SPIEGEL cover story. The facts in the story come from a database of almost 92,000 American military reports on the state of the war in Afghanistan that were obtained by the WikiLeaks website. Britain's Guardian  newspaper, the New York Times  and SPIEGEL have all vetted the material and reported on the contents in articles that have been researched independently of each other. All three media sources have concluded that the documents are authentic and provide an unvarnished image of the war in Afghanstan -- from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground.

Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, has been in a tight spot since the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington. Officially, the country is part of the worldwide anti-terrorism coalition forged by former United States President George W. Bush. Unofficially, however, the Pakistani security forces are the patrons of the Taliban forces that gave refuge to Osama bin Laden and his terrorists. It is clear that the Taliban would not exist without help from abroad. The Pakistani intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), helped build up and install the Taliban after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the country descended into a fratricidal war among the victorious mujahedeen, creating the threat of a power vacuum.

Despite all assurances by Pakistani politicians that these old connections were severed long ago, the country still pursues an ambiguous policy, in which Pakistan is both an ally of the United States and a helper of its enemies.

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Now there is new evidence to support this. The war logs make it clear that the Pakistani intelligence service is still presumably the Taliban's most important supporter outside Afghanistan. The fact is that the war against the Afghan security forces, the Americans and their allies within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is still being conducted from Pakistani soil, with the country serving as a safe haven for all hostile forces.

It also serves as a staging ground from which they can deploy. The Taliban's new recruits, including feared foreign fighters, are streaming across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The three main enemies of the Western coalition forces, the Taliban under Mullah Omar, the fighters led by former mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the militias of the Haqqani clan of warlords all have important quarters and operations centers in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden, the original justification for this war, is also believed to have found safe haven in Pakistan, where he is still involved in the day-to-day operations of jihad against the infidels. On one occasion, according to the documents, bin Laden planned to attack his enemies with a poison called, in his honor, "Osama Kapa," and on another he reportedly gave the gift of a wife to a particularly zealous Taliban fighter who had designed effective remotely triggered explosive booby traps.

Pakistan 's Assurance of Future Influence

The Pakistani intelligence service has excellent relations with all groups. In the constant fear that Pakistan's archrival India could gain a foothold in Afghanistan and thus have Pakistan in its pincers, so to speak, the ISI supports everything that could preserve and strengthen its own influence in Kabul. And because many ISI strategists cannot believe that the Americans will remain in Afghanistan for long (after all, Washington has already announced the beginning of its withdrawal), the Taliban remains Pakistan's assurance of future influence in Kabul. This reasoning is particularly clear in the Afghanistan war logs.

According to the warnings of new attacks and suicide bombings by the enemy, ISI envoys were present when Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's commanders met for a war council in northern Waziristan.

A document dated Sept. 1, 2007 reports on an imminent attack by a group of Hekmatyar's fighters on one of the Allies' forward operating bases in Kunar, the Afghan province bordering Peshawar in Pakistan. The elaborate and carefully planned attack was to involve four suicide bombers, and the Americans' source even knew where they were from: one Pakistani, one Arab and two Afghans. The plans also included a rocket attack and artillery fire. Finally, foot soldiers were to storm the outpost and take enemy soldiers prisoner, if possible.

The Pakistani intelligence service supplied Chinese ammunition to the insurgents. The ISI, as partial financier of the operation, wanted to retain control and thus intended to send an officer to observe the attack and advise the fighters.

Nothing Works without the ISI

Pakistan's western Balochistan Province is believed to be the area where Taliban leader Mullah Omar spends most of his time. The Shura, the Taliban's decision-making body, meets once a month in the city of Quetta, or at least it did in the first few years after the Taliban fled Afghanistan. Some of the documents, such as the Aug. 16, 2006 warning of an impending attack, even claim that bin Laden himself has attended this meeting. The American intelligence gatherers, skeptical about this claim, classified the document as 3F, which means that it does not require verification.

A man who undoubtedly attended the Shura was Mullah Baradar, a brother-in-law of Mullah Omar and the former Taliban military chief. The documents describe Baradar as the chairman of the Shura, and state that he monitors the financing, procurement and distribution of weapons, ammunition and other materials. As it happens, Baradar is also a confidant of the ISI. He designed the Taliban's strategy and, according to the war logs, is also responsible for the use of suicide bombings. Why, then, would Pakistani security forces have arrested Baradar on Feb. 8, 2010?

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Many observers believe that the Pakistani security forces struck after the mullah had begun communicating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. If this interpretation is correct, then the arrest of Baradar constituted a clear signal to the Taliban and their allies that nothing works without the ISI.

Anyone reading through the material already comes away with this impression. In document after document, it is the ISI that controls the course of the war, and suicide bombers are apparently one of its preferred weapons. In fact, it is the ISI itself that often deploys them, as a threat warning note dated Oct. 30, 2008 indicates. The note reads: "According to a source (C6) AQ (al-Qaida) and ISI formed an attack group that was called 'General.' There are six suicide bombers in the group, two of them are Chinese, two of them are Uzbek and the others are Arab. The suicide bombers intruded into Khost (province) ... ."

The ISI also issues precise orders to murder certain individuals. According to the documents, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is at the top of its hit list. Some of the documents are shockingly succinct and to the point. According to a warning dated August 21, 2008, for example, an ISI colonel "had directed Talib Maulawi Izzatullah to see that Karzai was assassinated. Izzatullah assigned Abdulbari from Sarobi District to assassinate Karzai in a suicide mission at the Presidential Palace."

Archenemy India a Frequent Target

Pakistan's archenemy India is mentioned again and again. According to the documents, the intelligence service instructed its Afghan allies to kill Indians who worked in Afghanistan. Their efforts apparently did not go unrewarded, with the ISI promising fighters in the Haqqani network large sums of money for killing Indians. The ISI's other preferred targets included all Indian consulates in Afghanistan, roads built by Indian workers and a telephone network installed by Indians. There is only one warning about a planned attack that does not include any indication of the ISI's involvement, this time on the Indian embassy in Kabul -- which did in fact happen, on July 7, 2008, claiming 58 lives. That warning came from intelligence agents within the Polish ISAF contingent.

The documents also contain information about attacks ordered on strategic targets, like dams, key roads and the Kabul power supply. Some of the plans the intelligence service apparently had developed were relatively extreme. One report, for example, states that the ISI planned to have its agents poison drinking water and alcoholic beverages sold on the black market. All attacks, including the suicide bombings on foreign troops, came with financial incentives, although the reports vary widely on the level of compensation. For example, the ISI was allegedly willing to pay between $15,000 and $30,000 to fighters in the Haqqani network for each attack on Indians.

Former ISI Chief Plays Key Role in Logs

Pakistan's former intelligence chief Hamid Gul plays a special role in the documents. Gul, a former army general who headed the ISI from 1987 to 1989, was one of the key supporters of the mujahedeen when they were fighting the Soviet occupation force in Afghanistan. When speaking with the Western media, Gul later proved to be a propagandist of sorts for the Taliban and someone who could easily see himself sympathizing with their struggle against the Americans. The United States accuses him of maintaining ties to al-Qaida.

In the newly leaked documents, Gul is also portrayed as an ally and, in one case, even as "a leader" of the Taliban. According to a threat assessment dated Jan. 14, 2008, he coordinated plans to kidnap United Nations employees on Afghanistan's Highway No. 1 between Kabul and Jalalabad. Some 15 to 20 Taliban fighters were to stop the UN vehicle and threaten the passengers with their weapons. There was to be no mercy. As the report reads, if the Taliban encountered resistance during the kidnapping, the hostage-takers "will use the AK47 guns to fight the resistance or kill the hostages."

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According to the reports, the retired general continued to supply his protégés with weapons. One source mentions that Gul had organized a convoy of 65 trucks filled with ammunition for the Taliban, although the authors of the report do not completely trust the source. Another report mentions that the ISI sent 1,000 motorcycles to the Haqqanis and delivered 7,000 weapons to Kunar Province, including Kalashnikovs, mortars and Strella missiles.

Skepticism over Veracity of Some Documents

But it is precisely the especially transparent attempts to portray the Taliban's supporters at the ISI as the most sinister of monsters that give rise to skepticism about the documents.

On May 29, 2006, for example, the Afghan intelligence service reported on an ISI campaign to burn down Afghan schools. Was this truly the work of a generally secular military, or was the campaign in fact the brainchild of Taliban religious fanatics?

And the claims about the ISI's alleged recruitment of children as suicide bombers? According to the documents, the child bombers were sent out with explosive vests attached to their bodies, and the explosives were then detonated remotely. Was this also the work of the Pakistani intelligence service, which was supposedly being overrun by domestic and foreign candidates for martyrdom?

Did the ISI truly ask women to hide explosive vests under their burqas, and is it true that ISI agents tenderly concealed an explosive device inside a gold-colored, fake Koran? These and other claims appear in this collection of reports assembled by the Americans. But are they true? The truth is that not all documents from this treasure trove are beyond any doubt.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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